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The promise of recovery: narratives of hope among homeless individuals with mental illness participating in a Housing First randomised controlled trial in Toronto, Canada
  1. Maritt Kirst1,2,
  2. Suzanne Zerger1,
  3. Deborah Wise Harris1,
  4. Erin Plenert1,
  5. Vicky Stergiopoulos1,3
  1. 1Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Maritt Kirst; kirstm{at}


Objectives Hope is widely embraced as an important factor in the recovery process. The role of housing in inspiring hope and facilitating recovery has been explored with homeless populations but is not well understood. This study explores perspectives on hopes for recovery and the role of housing on these hopes from the perspective of homeless adults experiencing mental illness participating in a multisite Housing First randomised controlled trial in Canada. The study draws on data from in-depth qualitative interviews with participants from the Toronto, Ontario site of the ‘At Home/Chez Soi’ Project.

Design In-depth interviews were conducted with a subsample of participants from a larger Housing First randomised controlled trial.

Setting The research took place in Toronto, Canada.

Participants 60 participants in the larger trial (36 from the Housing First group and 24 from the Treatment as Usual group) took part in in-depth interviews.

Method Participants for the in-depth interviews were purposively selected from the larger trial sample in Toronto and participated in an interview at the beginning of the study (baseline). Data from the baseline interviews were analysed using the constant comparative method derived from grounded theory methods.

Results Participants’ narratives show clear visualisation of goals for recovery, and emphasise that housing is an integral factor that can facilitate hope and support dimensions of recovery. However, some participants had difficulty adjusting to housing, and were concerned about feeling socially isolated, which could have negative implications for hopefulness and recovery.

Conclusions Housing First interventions should explicitly incorporate hope-inspiring, recovery-oriented approaches and support participants while adjusting to housing in order to sustain hopefulness.

  • Public Health
  • Qualitative Research

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